The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my own goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them all like spam, and as the quests for help intensified towards the end of the year, December being the very apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched it all with equal intensity by sending them all to trash.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes stuffed with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs, or stood with some not-so-not-for-profit museums, art galleries, poetry centers, political actions and vote drives, on top of a variety of worthy Kickstarter projects for great ideas and the very next big thing.
I’ve let down a huge array of impoverished communities around the world by not helping fund crucial water and sanitation projects, emergency health efforts, vaccines and mosquito nets, badly needed maternity supplies, educational materials and self-sustainability projects.
Thus I do qualify for the Grinch of the Year, if there’s even such a thing, as I don’t seem remorseful enough that no one has ever nominated me for an award of any kind, for that matter. Yes, it’s all probably out of spite. I should be ashamed and yet I am not. Once I did it, or didn’t, I actually fell a sense of relief.
Any time now, I’m expecting a few invitations from my pals in Wall Street and Washington, to celebrate our good fortune this past year. No one in jail and billions in our accounts, we deserve a self-congratulatory adulation just for how we’ve saved the economy.
We’ve reduced the deficit to its bare minimum, or rather, the reduced minimum wage has gone a long way to guarantee that no moocher will ever get back on their feet, on the back of our defense budget or military spending. And we made sure that food stamps won’t get on our way either.

I’ll sleep extremely well tonight, as I’ve been doing since the Socialist government of a Kenya-born president has started. Oh, what a wonderful war this has been, but if he does come after our weapons, we’ve increased gun ownership in this country this year, by several percentage points, just in case.
I don’t even want to consider the crazy, Communist-inflected idea of donating some of the end-of-the-year bonuses to the homeless. For what? Aren’t they already getting fat of so much government subsidies? Besides, what do their plight have to do with me and my peers? I just can’t see the point.
Instead, I should be proud of my humble contributions, despite the obscure reference to Atlas or the infamous pun with the word Donate above; just by saying no, I’ve added my muted voice to the armies of concerned white collars fighting the tyranny of the poor and the threat of the dispossessed to take from us what we’ve inherited by blood, race or class.
OWS could as well mean Owning Without Shame. After all, it’s has never been so good being rich in America.

3 thoughts on “The Ungiven

  1. My wise old grandmother taught me budgets when I was but 11 and she was helping me start my first company. My budget basically was 10% to God, 10% to savings, 10% to charity, 10% to marketing & advertising, and 60% to live on.

    I’ve changed over the years, in that I give 10% to charity, 10% to retirement savings, 10% to rainy day savings, 10% to marketing & advertising, and 60% to live on.

    Thus, it really doesn’t matter whether I make $50,000 in a year or $500,000 in a year, I always have 10% to give to charity, and my charity list is very long.


    • colltales says:

      Thanks for sharing, Russel. As a (slightly defensive) disclaimer, I haven’t yet given up donating to the causes I identified with, just so you know. Your method seems to work fine for you, so I wouldn’t touch it.Thanks for stopping by. All the best.


  2. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Allow me then, to award you, Grinch of the Year!! But not :). We do what we can do, not what we can’t (unless we’re suckers or donating for reasons of guilt).

    I don’t get the flood of beg-mail that you do – especially given your list of sorry – but there came a time I sat & contemplated why I give. I have turned around in time and realise that I need to give to my son & me. Get us up & running first. I do give from time to time, but not with the sense of obligation I used to. I am free of that now.

    Have you noticed some blogs with a Paypal ‘donate’ on them? I don’t exactly understand. I am in conflict as I understand and support that if a blog is exceptional, well, why not pay the author of it as you would a magazine – that would be great, making money from writing (and it’s a compliment to your ability as a writer), but then, blogging is meant to be a free gig and why ruin it with a little beg/donate sign. I’ve just come off a blog where I was curious and hit the ‘donate’ button. I thought it would explain more but it explained nothing. It was just an invitation for me to donate to the blog writer. Dare say, ’twas odd. And if I didn’t have a Paypal account I could provide my credit card number to indent myself via credit, to that blog writer. Then I thought, Daniel’s birthday late January. I might just save my indebt myself quote for that day… After all, I only just “got over” Christmas!

    Happy New Year, Wesley. Unfailingly interesting writing, this way.


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